Category Archives: Tsalteshi Trails

Administrators race to break red tape — Battle of Binkley draws healthy participation

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Battle of Binkley organizer Bobbi Lay shows competitors Paul Ostrander, center, and Sean Dusek how much coffee they must use in the first round of the challenge.

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Battle of Binkley organizer Bobbi Lay shows competitors Paul Ostrander, center, and Sean Dusek how much coffee they must use in the first round of the challenge.

By Redoubt Reporter

There was still a score to be settled when the Salmon Run series of community races finished up Aug. 5, but this one didn’t require running, except for running a coffee maker.

Participation was better than ever in the fourth year of the Salmon Run Series, with each of the five weekly races topping 120 participants, and one week nearly drawing 170.

That’s thanks, in part, to increased participation from Kenai Peninsula Borough and school district employees who squared off in the Battle of Binkley participation challenge. Each Salmon Run, the number of school district vs. borough employees was tallied. Whichever side of the borough administration building — located on Binkley Street in Soldotna — tallied the most participants in all five Salmon Runs would win. The prize? Bragging rights. But also the health benefits that come from being active.

In an added twist, there were five extra points in play, and it was up to the administrators of the borough and school district to settle which side got them. That was determined Aug. 12, prior to the Fountain of Youth run at Tsalteshi Trails, as school district Superintendent Sean Dusek squared off against borough Mayor Mike Navarre’s proxy, Chief of Staff Paul Ostrander, as Navarre was delayed in Anchorage testifying in a hearing.

The tally was neck and neck as the administrator challenge came to a head.

“The borough actually had more people participate, but the school district had more repeat offenders, so it is extremely close, and these gentlemen have a chance to win five points for their team,” said Mike Crawford, with Tsalteshi Trails Association and creator of the Battle of Binkley with borough co-worker Bobbi Lay.

As Crawford explained, the score would be settled through bureaucratic, rather than athletic, prowess.

“First off, they are going to make an entire pot of coffee, because, as we know, caffeine is an integral part of any meeting,” he said, as Lay demonstrated how the coffee pots worked and how much grounds must be used.

Multitasking was the order of the day. While the coffee brewed, the competitors moved onto the stiff collar competition — unrolling and putting on a frozen t-shirt — and the Ding-Dong challenge.

“Sustenance. What bureaucratic meeting does not need sustenance? So here we have Hostess snack cakes, enough to power you through any meeting,” Crawford said. A brief conference ensued to determine the number of snack cakes to be consumed. “How many do you guys want to eat? One?”

“OK, they’ve decided to eat one Ding-Dong,” Crawford announced to the crowd.

Newly fueled, the competitors would find a stack of 10 cards bearing names to be alphabetized. Finally, once enough coffee was brewed, it was to be poured into a cup, the lid secured and the vessel carried through a series of barriers strung with flagging tape — red, of course. Whoever cut through the red tape with a full cup of coffee first, would win.

“Are the administrators ready for the bureaucratic beatdown?” Crawford intoned. “OK, timers are you ready? Racers are you ready? Let’s go!”

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Ripe for the brain picking — Berry walkers harvest abundant knowledge

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Janice Chumley, integrated pest management technician for the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service office in Soldotna, points out low-bush lingonberries, pictured below,  to a crowd of participants in a berry identification walk Monday afternoon at Tsalteshi Trails in Soldotna. The event was held as part of the Harvest Moon Local Food Festival, ongoing through Saturday.

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Janice Chumley, integrated pest management technician for the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service office in Soldotna, points out low-bush lingonberries, pictured below, to a crowd of participants in a berry identification walk Monday afternoon at Tsalteshi Trails in Soldotna. The event was held as part of the Harvest Moon Local Food Festival, ongoing through Saturday.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Thirty-four people combed the forest floor Monday afternoon, eyes peeled, attention piqued, senses alert. Their quarry was stationary and abundant but the hunt still held challenges. Not so much in the finding, but in telling one specimen from the wide variety of others.

“What’s this?” “Here’s some red ones!” “Are these any good?”

Variations of those comments formed a background of chatter for the hour-and-a-half walk on Tsalteshi Trails, ebbing and flowing like waves on a shoreline, quieting as the hunters became engrossed in their task and crescendoing when someone found something new, exciting and hopefully delicious — or at least safely edible.

“Alaska is blessed with many varieties of berries that are good to eat and very few that are berries lingonberriesbad for you,” said Janice Chumley, integrated pest management technician for the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service office in Soldotna.

Chumley served as guide for the berry walk, one of a slate of talks, workshops and other activities offered as part of Harvest Moon Local Food Festival. The 26 adults and eight kids who participated Monday did so to expand their knowledge of local edibles, or start to build it from scratch.

“I’m a Native from Arizona and I relocated here and I was very active in my community, which is the Sonoran desert, because our survival in all the hundreds of years depended on that we knew — the plants and the system and what we could eat and what we couldn’t — and so I’m going to do that here in my new home,” said Elizabeth Spinasanto.

She was looking forward to harvesting berries to use in healthy breakfasts — smoothies or with homemade yogurt, which she had learned about in a previous Harvest Moon workshop.

Elizabeth Spinasanto compares a photo she took with her cellphone to a printout Chumley brought along. The convenience of camera phones make them a great tool for berry identification.

Elizabeth Spinasanto compares a photo she took with her cellphone to a printout Chumley brought along. The convenience of camera phones make them a great tool for berry identification.

“I’m taking the fermentation class, as well. I have not missed any of the classes. I’m kind of excited about it,” she said.

Prior to the walk in the woods, the group met at the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank for a quick course on berry processing with Linda Tannehill, health, home and family agent with the Cooperative Extension Service. Processing doesn’t need to be time-intensive, she said. Berries are usually good to eat straight off the plant — the key word being “usually.”

“You don’t have to wash them depending on where you pick,” she said. “But if it’s a place where there is a lot of dogs or traffic, you might want to rinse them off.”

Pick as cleanly as possible to save work later, but removing detrius from most berries is generally a simple affair. Some people pour their harvest from one bowl to another on a windy day or in front of a fan to blow off any leaves, stems and other debris. Tannehill prefers more control in her cleaning method. She rubber-bands a terrycloth towel onto a cutting board, rolling the edges to form a channel down the middle of board, then holds the board at an incline and pours the berries down it and into a baking pan with raised edges. The knap of the towel grabs the litter while the berries roll down into the pan — and hopefully no farther.

“I have to have bumpers,” she said. “I’ve chased blueberries across the floor and my dogs get there first. And so I’ve learned to put bumpers on my towel here.”

Sometimes berries contain insects. They aren’t harmful, but soaking firm berries in a solution of salt water can draw out any creatures that might be lurking inside.

“If you’re grossed out by bugs then maybe you want to soak them. It’s all your own comfort level,” Chumley said.

Frozen berries keep for a few years, especially when vacuum-packed in a good-quality bag with a good seal. But freeze the berries first to avoid a squished mess, spreading them in a baking pan and putting them in the freezer for a few hours.

“Do not try to vacuum-package berries unfrozen. There’s no problem if they’re frozen. It’s a big problem if they’re not frozen,” Tannehill said.

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Off and running — Salmon Run Series nets wide turnout

Photo by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. The first of five Salmon Run Series races kicked off July 8 at Tsalteshi Trails behind Skyview Middle School. This year’s series includes kids races, youth running camps and a participation competition between Kenai Peninsula Borough and school district employees.

Photo by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. The first of five Salmon Run Series races kicked off July 8 at Tsalteshi Trails behind Skyview Middle School. This year’s series includes kids races, youth running camps and a participation competition between Kenai Peninsula Borough and school district employees.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

When you’re little, there’s no nuance to running. There’s no training, no pacing, no heart-rate monitoring. You either go, arms pin-wheeling and legs scissoring as fast as possible, or you stop. And you might not even go in any consistent direction.

That was the case for the little guys running the one-kilometer, 5-and-under kids course July 8 before the regular 5K community Salmon Run Series at Tsalteshi Trails. Some were slowed by an attention-worthy rock or a branch, or they veered a little off course when spotting Mom in the crowd, or they got a little confused at the finish line, running under the tape instead of through the finisher’s chute.

But what they lacked in sophisticated navigation, they more than made up for in enthusiasm.

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Making nice with the ice — Tsalteshi Trails still in the running to enjoy winter

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Adam Tafoya finds an efficient way of getting down the icy sledding hill behind Skyview Middle School in Tsalteshi Trails’ Black Stone Axe Ridge Race on Sunday, while Sondra Stonecipher, Melissa Tafoya and Jane Fuerstenau (right to left) exercise the traditional method.

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Adam Tafoya finds an efficient way of getting down the icy sledding hill behind Skyview Middle School in Tsalteshi Trails’ Black Stone Axe Ridge Race on Sunday, while Sondra Stonecipher, Melissa Tafoya and Jane Fuerstenau (right to left) exercise the traditional method.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Things looked like they should for race day at Tsalteshi Trails on Sunday afternoon — cars filling the parking lot of the Wolverine Trailhead on Kalifornsky Beach Road, orange markings denoting the starting line and racecourse, clipboard-laden volunteers taking registrations and handing out numbered bibs, and participants layered in winter activewear, trotting in circles, swinging limbs and bouncing in place in order to stay warm and warm up for the effort to come.

But when race organizer Mike Crawford yelled, “Go,” things didn’t sound quite like they should for a mid-January event at the ski trails. Instead of the long, rhythmic schuss of skis on snow, there was the quick, staccato racket of ice-cleated footfalls running along bare, gravelly ground.

What was supposed to be the second installment of Tsalteshi’s Freeze Style weekly community ski race series had been turned into the Black Stone Axe Ridge Run instead — Tsalteshi meaning “Black Stone Axe Ridge” in the local Native Dena’ina language.

The volunteers, the equipment and the participants were ready to go. Tsalteshi had everything needed to hold a ski race, except:

Scott Huff emerges from the woods at the end of the Mosquito Trail behind Skyview Middle School.

Scott Huff emerges from the woods at the end of the Mosquito Trail behind Skyview Middle School.

“There’s no snow,” Crawford said. “We had a good start to the snow season and then it kind of went pear-shaped for a while, so the impetus was, ‘Let’s do something fun anyway and let’s adhere to winter rules because we still have a million miles of trails here, so let’s use them. Let’s get people outside, it’s a beautiful day, let’s make fun with lemons and lemonade.”

The “winter rules” to which Crawford is referring take effect once there’s skiable snow at Tsalteshi, and stipulate that there be no foot traffic on the ski trails for the duration of ski season, since the indentions left by shoes and boots cause problems for snow grooming.

While skiing hasn’t been particularly feasible since a warm spell struck the central Kenai Peninsula around Christmas, Tsalteshi’s winter rules remain in effect to preserve the scant amount of snow base still left on the trails.

But there is one exception to the no walking, running or hiking rule — the Mosquito Snowshoe Trail, a three-kilometer path snaking through the trails system from the Wolverine Trailhead to just behind Skyview Middle School. That’s open to foot traffic year-round, and doubles as a single-track mountain bike trail in the summer months.

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Take aim at disc golf craze — Tournament lands growing popularity with new course

Photos by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Mikhail Parrish, 5, plays in the Salmon Toss Disc Golf Tournament on Saturday while on vacation from Germany. The event was hosted by River City Rotaract and held at the 19-hole course at Tsalteshi Trails behind Skyview High School.

Photos by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Mikhail Parrish, 5, plays in the Salmon Toss Disc Golf Tournament on Saturday while on vacation from Germany. The event was hosted by River City Rotaract and held at the 19-hole course at Tsalteshi Trails behind Skyview High School.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

As Mikhail Parrish, on vacation with his family from Germany, stepped up to the tee, he realized the immense task that stood in front of him. There was a deep dogleg to the right obscuring his drive. Even without the bend the narrow fairway had tall spruce and dense vegetation on either side, also obstructing his field of view, and the course dropped dozens of feet in elevation from the tee.

Still, if he felt any trepidation, he didn’t show it as he stepped up, focused on his foot placement, aimed for an end goal he could not see, then let a flat, tangerine-colored disc rip into the nearly cloudless sky.

Not a hole in one, but not a bad toss, especially given that Mikhail is all of 5 years old. It was good enough to bring a smile to his face, and to the faces of the organizers of the inaugural Salmon Toss Disc Golf Tournament held Saturday on the new course at Tsalteshi Trails behind to Skyview High School. Roughly two dozen people took part in the tournament, which involved 19 holes of play, as well as longest drive and closest-to-the-pin events.

“This is a good turnout for our first event. I’m really pleased with it,” said Stephanie Musgrove, an organizer of the event and co-chair of River City Rotaract, a group of young adults who are service partners with Rotary International and responsible for the course’s inception this past year.

“The purpose of this event was primarily awareness,” she said. “We wanted people to know it was here, so they could come all summer and play.”

The goal of the organizers also was to give kids, teens and adults an opportunity for fitness, friendship and fun. Those involved Saturday were of varying ages, experience levels and from different regions of the country and world, all engaged in the fun of disc golf, whether they call it that, “frolf” or aiming for the chains.

While Parrish was one of the youngest players of the day, Mike Guilliame, 49, of Anchorage, brought much more experience. While he only began playing disc golf about two years ago, he said that when he was a kid he played Frisbee on the beaches of Florida, from which he originally hails.

“Within eight months I started winning events and last year I was the Ace Race winner in Anchorage,” he said.

Stocky-framed, silver-haired and accurate with his throws, Guilliame said that he got so good so quickly by putting in a lot of practice hours.

“I play a lot more than most people,” he said. “Some people play once to twice a week, but I used to live next to a course, so I played two to four times a day for eight months.”

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Path to a parks plan — Soldotna issues draft parks, trails master plan

File photo by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. A runner in the Kenai River Marathon heads down Bridge Access Road with the mountains flanking Cook Inlet behind her.

File photo by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. A runner in the Kenai River Marathon heads down Bridge Access Road with the mountains flanking Cook Inlet behind her.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

If you live in the Soldotna area and are recreation- or activity-minded, chances are you’ve thought at least one of the following:

It’d sure be nice to have longer stretches to walk along the Kenai River.

It’s too bad the Unity Trail doesn’t continue through Soldotna, so we don’t have to walk, run or ride a bike right alongside the Sterling Highway.

I wish there were an indoor place to walk, or some turf on which to practice soccer before the snow melts.

It’d be great if teens had more maintained, supervised places to hang out and recreate.

Can’t someone do something to make the Sterling-Kenai Spur highways “Y” intersection less of a pain for pedestrians and bicyclists?

Or the big one — it would be so great to get back and forth from Kenai Peninsula College and downtown Soldotna without having to go all the way around Kalifornsky Beach Road to the Sterling Highway to the David Douthit Memorial Bridge over the Kenai River.

Well, Soldotna, that wishful thinking is on a path to being granted, with the Soldotna Parks and Trails planning process nearing completion. After reviewing past planning efforts, meeting with stakeholder and user groups, conferring with partner agencies and organizations, and soliciting input through a public survey, Casey Planning and Design has released a semifinal, 75 percent-complete draft Soldotna Parks and Trails Master Plan.

An open house will be held from 4 to 8 p.m. Thursday at the Soldotna Sports Center, where the public can view the draft plan and its recommendations, ask questions and provide feedback. The draft plan, map and associated documents also will be available on the city of Soldotna’s website. The plan is open for review and public comment through May 10. Planners will contact season-specific recreational user groups over the summer — which might not have been thoroughly represented in the survey conducted this winter — for more input, then submit the plan to the city council for approval next fall.

“We want to keep it at a level of ‘What about?’ As opposed to, ‘Why didn’t they?’ At this point it’s still dynamic,” said Andrew Carmichael, city of Soldotna Parks and Recreation director.

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Sights set on spooky

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter

Costumed treat-seekers of all stripes took to Tsalteshi Trails on Sunday for its annual Spook Night event, including a trick-or-treat trail through the woods and a 5-kilometer Zombie Run.

Zombie 5-kilometer

Sunday, Oct. 29, Tsalteshi Trails

Men — Jordan Theisen, first place, 20:03.7; Sean Goff, 21:13.3; Ryder Galic, 25:24.9; Jeremy Kupferschmid, 27:00.1; Tanner Best, 28:21.9; Rick Proffitt, 30:51.2; John Solem, 30:53.5; Joseph Briggs, 31:55.4; Todd Pollock, 35:27.5; Van Grainge, 36:40.2; Billy Morrow, 39:14.9; Will Morrow, 39:15.2; Rick Kraxberger, 46:59.8; Drake Thomas, 53:44.6; Phil Pijahn, 58:48.6.

Women — Emily Colton, first place, 24:18.3; Anna Berington, 27:19.8, Kristy Berington, 27:20.1; Hadassah Udelhoven, 27:53.4; Regina Theisen, 29:36.2; Nimi Pollock, 31:01.6; Melody Nichol, 32:09.9; Patty Moran, 32:37.0; Janice Habermann, 33:22.2; Jenny Olendorff, 33:22.5; Susan Pfaffe, 33:22.8; Marian Werth, 33:23.1; Madeline Brennan, 35:47.9; Angie Brennan, 35:52.5; Danielle Caswell, 36:02.5; Markie Shiflen, 36:24.8; Amy Adcox, 37:08; Kristin Morrow, 39:15.5; Diane Pollock, 43:10.2; Thi Pijahn, 46:07.8; Amber Kraxberger, 47:00.1; Shelby Dykstra, 48:43.8; Kathy Hahmel, 48:46.7; Joni Dykstra, 48:47.0; Yvonne Oren, 50:08.5; Kristen Mitchell, 53:48.6; Lauri Langafelt, 53:51.2; Jennifer Jackson, 55:12.2; Heather Christian, 58:48.3; Laura McIndoe, 1:03:55.1; Becky Hutchinson, 1:04:12.5.

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‘Fore’ Frisbee fun — New disc golf course opens in Soldotna

By Joseph Robertia

Photo courtesy of River City Rotaract. Members of River City Rotaract gather around a basket of a new disc golf course on Tsalteshi Trails behind Skyview High School. The course, installed this summer, can be accessed behind the football field at Skyview.

Redoubt Reporter

Being young in this day and age generally conjures up the reputation of being somewhat self-absorbed, what with all the technological options available for entertainment and social networking. But with youth also can come new ideas and the energy to make them happen.

A small group of young professionals from Soldotna have taken the latter approach and are now watching their endeavor soar — literally and figuratively. River City Rotaract, a division of the Rotary Club of Soldotna specifically for 18- to 35-year-olds, devotes itself to developing community projects, such as the recently completed addition of a disc golf course at Tsalteshi Trails.

“It ended up being a much bigger project than we anticipated,” said Stephanie Musgrove, of Rotaract.

Tsalteshi Trails, accessed from behind Skyview High School or from the trailhead on Kalifornsky Beach Road across the street from the Soldotna Sports Center, offers miles of trails for hiking, jogging and biking in summer, and skiing in winter. Adding to this now is a 20-basket disc golf course, located on the Squirrel Loop of the trails, accessed behind the football and soccer fields at Skyview.

“We thought it would be a great idea because while Kenai has two courses, Soldotna doesn’t have anything like this. It seemed like something people in our age group would want to do, and hopefully it will be a push in the right direction for other people in the community to stay active and be healthy,” Musgrove said.

The concept of disc golf, also known as Frisbee golf, or “frolfing,” is simple. Like the regular game, where clubs are used to drive a white ball down a fairway and eventually into a hole, in disc golf a disc is thrown down the course and eventually into a hanging basket, which also is sometimes called a hole.

“It’s pretty windy and a bit longer than the Kenai courses. Over two kilometers there are 20 baskets, which is a pretty long course. Nineteen of those are course holes. The other one is a putting hole, for people to practice on or warm up while waiting for friends,” Musgrove said.

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Slip slidin’ success — Ski day targets youth with special needs

By Jenny Neyman

Photos by Clark Fair, Redoubt Reporter. Owen Swaby gets two hands from mom, Kate Swaby, left, and volunteer Denise Harrow during a learn-to-ski event for kids with special needs Saturday at Tsalteshi Trails.

Redoubt Reporter

Being a physical therapist, Angela Beplat could rattle off the skills the kids were working on as they participated in a learn-to-ski event for kids with special needs Saturday afternoon at Tsalteshi Trails behind Skyview High School in Soldotna.

“You’re always trying to

Xander Kinslow takes a load off in between skis during the event.

work on core strength and bilateral coordination and all these different types of skills, but skiing is so cool because it’s an activity that naturally has all those kinds of things. It’s all there,” she said.

The parents — watching their kids laugh and play, concentrate on staying upright and tackle the difficulty of shuffling up a slope only to launch fearlessly back down it — could attest to the social and educational aspects of the event.

“They get to see kids from therapy or school, and it’s also good for them to be around older kids who are skiing,” said

Sophie Lathrop sports a stylish unicorn helmet as part of her warm-weather garb during a learn-to-ski event Saturday.

Angela Lathrop, who brought her four adopted kids, ages 6 to 9, to the event. “It’s good to see them get out and do stuff, and it also raises their confidence. So many times with our kiddos with special needs you have to be so careful with safety and they don’t always understand the inherent danger in things. Continue reading

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Almanac: Local names reign on Tsalteshi Trails

Editor’s note: This is the third of a three-part story about the history of Tsalteshi Trails, the main training ground for three central peninsula high schools and the local centerpiece for skiing and running competitions. The first article discussed how the land was acquired and how the trail-making was planned. The second article showed how a confluence of motivated individuals opened up the ridge line for skiing, running and mountain biking. This week’s article demonstrates the unqualified success of the trail system and its continuing growth and refinement.

Photos courtesy of Bill Holt. In early autumn 2009, Bill Holt creates a wire trench for the lighting systems on the Beaver and Raven loops at Tsalteshi Trails.

By Clark Fair

Redoubt Reporter

Bill Holt, the primary groomer and caretaker for Tsalteshi Trails, remembers how his role with the trail system intensified in the mid-1990s:

“Back in the dark ages, Alan Boraas was digging out one of the old Ski-Do Alpine snowmachines, and I was rubbernecking nearby and asked if he needed some help,” Holt said. “We got it dug out, and he asked if I wanted to help him groom. I said, ‘Sure.’ Alan took off, made it to the top of the hill and got stuck. Lots of blue smoke and blue language. I went up to help, and the next thing I knew I was spending more and more time on a snowmachine following him around.

“Alan puts a lot of thought into everything he does, and he instilled that scientific approach into grooming the trails. I think I have inherited that. We have gone through lots of equipment modifications, but it still comes down to having a certain amount of snow sense — when to groom, when to wait, how to make things better and not worse.” Continue reading

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Almanac: Many hands hew new paths — Tsalteshi Trails system took group push to get started

Editor’s note: This is the second of a three-part story about the history of the Tsalteshi Trails, which are the main training ground for three central peninsula high schools and the local centerpiece for skiing and running competitions. Last week’s article discussed how the land was acquired and the trail-making was planned. This week’s article will show how a confluence of motivated individuals opened up the ridge line for skiing, running and mountain biking. The next article will demonstrate the unqualified success of the trail system and its continuing growth and refinement.

By Clark Fair

Photos courtesy of Alan Boraas. Don Jones, a Kasilof-based volunteer, operates his John Deere 450c bulldozer as he works in 1990 on what would later be known as the Tsalteshi Trails.

Redoubt Reporter

The film “Field of Dreams” starred Kevin Costner as a man who, despite the consternation of his wife and the incredulity of his friends and neighbors, becomes obsessed with the idea of building a baseball diamond where a cornfield stands behind his house. The film premiered April 23, 1989, and popularized the line, “If you build it, he will come.”

Two years earlier, members of the Kenai Peninsula Nordic Ski Club had had a similar notion: On May 19, 1987, the club presented to the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly an ambitious plan to build a trail system in the wooded hills north of Skyview High School. Alan Boraas, one of the key members of the ski club, recalled, “The assembly grudgingly OK’d it for us to put trails in, but they were very clear that these were not dedicated trails. (But) I knew that once we got them built — if we did it right — it was going to accelerate. And that’s what happened.”

Over the next quarter of a century, the ski club’s vision evolved into a top-level facility called Tsalteshi Trails, which is used year-round by runners and skiers, walkers and snowshoeing enthusiasts, mountain bikers and a host of organizations seeking a training ground. It is a major draw for all of Southcentral Alaska, it is considered one of the state’s best trail systems, and it has hosted triathlons, state events, qualifying races for the Junior Olympics, Besh Cup series races, and the Arctic Winter Games.

But it started rather inconspicuously, and very much on the cheap. Continue reading

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Almanac: On the trail to recreational infrastructure —Vision, support converge to create Tsalteshi Trails

Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part story about the history of the Tsalteshi Trails, which are the main training ground for three central peninsula high schools and the local centerpiece for skiing and running competitions. This week’s article discusses how the land was acquired and the trail-making was begun. Next week’s article will demonstrate the unqualified success of the trail system and its continuing growth and refinement.

By Clark Fair

Photo courtesy of the Fair Family Collection. Will Troyer glides on his wooden backcountry skis in a more remote section of the Kenai National Moose Range. Before the Tsalteshi Trails were constructed, many people routinely skied in the backcountry.

Redoubt Reporter

During a bicycle ride in the spring of 1987, the fate of cross-country skiing on the central Kenai Peninsula began to shift upward.

Prior to 1980, Nordic skiing on the peninsula had been mostly a backcountry affair, although the Kenai National Moose Range offered a few miles of groomed trails near Soldotna and allowed for some racing to occur in the area of Headquarters Lake. Kenai Central High School had a cross-country ski team, as did Homer High School, and the chance to compete gave the sport focus and energy.

With the passage of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act in 1980, however, the moose range became the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, and the management plan there no longer supported racing or related events. As a consequence, enthusiasm for the sport began to wane.

The KCHS team disbanded in the early 1980s, and when Soldotna High School opened in 1980 it did not include skiing in its sports repertoire.

Meanwhile, the Kalifonsky Nordic Ski Club, which had begun in the late 1960s, also faded in popularity and was in need of new members and fresh ideas. The last president of the club, Alan Boraas, and club member Charlotte Ischi went into the bank and closed out the club account. They then created the Kenai Peninsula Nordic Ski Club, and in the mid-1980s attempted to create a new trail system near Centennial Park along the Kenai River. But the new trails were not of the caliber necessary to attract a large following, and so widespread interest in Nordic skiing remained tepid.

Then came the fateful bicycle ride. Continue reading

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